Gürtel corruption case drags on in the Madrid suburb of Boadilla

More money to be paid out for sports center, which was never completed

The current state of the Sports and Health Park in Boadilla del Monte.
The current state of the Sports and Health Park in Boadilla del Monte.ÁLVARO GARCÍA

On May 10, 2007, the Popular Party (PP)-controlled town hall of Boadilla del Monte, a community of some 46,000 people in Madrid's wealthy north-western suburbs, awarded the biggest construction contract in its history. The bombastically named Sports and Health Park would cost 30.5 million euros to build, according to the sign outside the still only half-completed complex. This was to be an ambitious project, covering 45,000 square meters - equivalent to more than four soccer pitches - and was to include a pitch, a running track, swimming pool and gym facilities.

Boadilla's opposition Socialist Party and United Left (IU) coalition immediately objected, pointing out that such an important contract had been awarded ignoring the usual procedures, and that Mayor Arturo González Panero was not even present when it was finally approved. The opposition also noted that one of the mayor's close associates was assigned to conduct an evaluation study for the project. Construction was awarded to Hispánica property developers.

Alfonso García Pozuelo Asins, the company's former owner, along with González Panero, who has since been relieved of his position, have both been indicted in the Gürtel corruption scandal.

Usual procedures were ignored when the contract was awarded

The Gürtel case, which brought down Judge Baltasar Garzón's career, involves leading PP figures. Garzón ordered the arrest of the main suspect in the case, businessman Francisco Correa, and about two dozen others in 2009. They were accused of paying nearly seven million euros in kickbacks in exchange for contracts with PP administrations in Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha and Valencia. Correa and his associates, among them García Pozuelo Asins, are accused of bribing officials and politicians.

Around two weeks after the contract was awarded, Boadilla city council official Tomás Martín Morales received 660,000 euros via three separate payments into a bank account, according to the courts, allegedly made by Correa.

Garzón's investigation alleges that Martín Morales "was an intermediary assigned with obtaining the construction contract to build the sports complex on behalf of Hispánica."

Five years later, this past July 17, Boadilla's new mayor, Antonio González Terol, also of the PP, but who has no links to the Gürtel case, decided to continue the project.

Boadilla town hall has so far paid 13.9 million euros to Hispánica and Assignia - the latter taking over after the former went bankrupt - and is now to pay a further three million euros, terminating the contract on work that is barely half finished. This will require investment significantly higher than the original figure of 30.5 million euros.

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"For reasons beyond the company's control work was halted in December 2010 after several extensions to the date agreed for the completion of the project had passed," reads the press release issued by Boadilla City Hall, noting that it bears no responsibility.

Boadilla says that because the reasons for the non-completion of the project are "beyond the control" of the two companies, "in accordance with the reports issued by council experts, the town hall cannot impose any sanction for breach of contract." The original contract stipulated that the work would be finished within 24 months.

If Boadilla town hall wants the sports center finished, it will now have to issue a new round of bidding for the contract. A visit to the site suggests that this will not be easy: the air conditioning infrastructure has been exposed to the elements for the last two years, while other equipment has also suffered damage, and will likely have to be replaced as well.

Garzón was convicted of abuse of power for ordering police wiretaps of conversations between suspects in jail and their lawyers. Swiss investigators also discovered 24 million euros in bank accounts linked to Correa.

Another case involving the Valencia branch of the Gürtel network went to trial in December, resulting in the acquittal of the former regional premier Francisco Camps and his former deputy, Ricardo Costa. The two men were accused of accepting bribes. The jury narrowly decided that the charges could not be proven.

Camps was re-elected with a majority in May 2011, but stepped down soon after to fight the charges. Garzón is the only person so far to be found guilty of wrongdoing in relation to the case.

Balearic parallels

EL PAÍS, Madrid

Although on a smaller scale, Boadilla has parallels to the Palma Arena case involving the former head of the Popular Party Balearic Islands" government. In March, Jaume Matas was found guilty of several corruption-related offenses including embezzlement, influence peddling, fraud, and falsifying documents.

The charges against Matas were partly related to the construction of the Palma Arena sports complex, the final cost of which - 100 million euros - turned out to be double initial estimates.

The corruption accusations against Matas also involve Iñaki Urdangarin, husband of King Juan Carlos" daughter Cristina. He is under investigation into his alleged corrupt business deals in the Balearic Islands.

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